As a devout social advocate and an honorably retired sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), I speak truth to power honestly and candidly with an eye toward justice. And that’s why I’ve made “Eye on Justice” the name of my inaugural column here in The Wave.
During my 20-year career with the LAPD, I frequently was the victim of persecution and a hostile work environment because I did not “go along to get along.” Instead, to paraphrase educator Horace Mann, I always sought to win some victory for humanity.
I was never alone in this fight.
For example, in 2006, 19-year Buffalo police veteran Cariol Holloman-Horne answered an officer-in-distress call from officer Gregory Kwiatkowski, who’d responded to a domestic dispute between a resident and his girlfriend. As Holloman-Horne entered the home, she found the man handcuffed and in custody while Kwiatkowski beat the suspect over the head.
After Holloman-Horne and other officers intervened to take the suspect outside, Kwiatkowski followed and began to choke him and assault him again, she said. When Holloman-Horne tried to stop the assault, Kwiatkowski turned his rage on her, punching her in the face so forcefully that she needed to have her nose reconstructed.
Her reward for trying to stop the assault? She was charged with 13 counts of police misconduct and ultimately fired. She since has lost every appeal of her termination and, thus, her service pension. Apparently, no good deed goes unpunished.
Despite her plight, though, Holloman-Horne has continued to speak out against her injustice and to promote the real reason why former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee: opposition to police abuse in minority communities.
For his part, officer Kwiatkowski lived to offend again. Years later, he and several other officers were indicted on federal civil rights violations against African American teenagers. Last December, he pled guilty to the charge.
Unfortunately for Hollomon-Horne, his guilty plea brings her no justice, as she remains fired from her police job and out of a pension.
Her dilemma, however, is far from isolated.
In 2011, former Baltimore police detective Joe Crystal witnessed two officers beating a drug suspect who had tried to escape. Crystal ultimately reported the beatings to state prosecutors, resulting in him being labeled a “snitch” and a “rat cop.” The threats and intimidation – which included someone putting a dead rat on his windshield – were outlined in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit he filed against the Baltimore Police Department and its commissioner, Anthony Batts.
For two years, Crystal documented the harassment. He finally resigned in 2014, fearing for his own safety and that of his family.
While Crystal survived his ordeal, however, another Baltimore police officer wasn’t as lucky. Detective Sean Suiter was murdered the day before he was scheduled to testify against several of his colleagues before a grand jury.
Suiter and his partner were investigating a murder last month when he spotted a suspicious suspect in the area. As Suiter approached the suspect, a struggle ensued and the officer was shot in the head with his own revolver, according to reports. His partner, meanwhile, “took cover across the street upon hearing the sound of gunfire,” according to an NBC news story. The suspect fled the scene and remained at-large as of this writing.
Suiter was murdered a day before his grand jury testimony involving a federal corruption investigation into seven members of a rogue police unit accused of illegally detaining citizens, planting drugs and stealing from civilians.
Federal authorities reportedly said that no evidence exists to link Suiter’s death to the so-called “Broken Boundaries” investigation, which has uncovered alleged shakedowns by members of an elite gun squad, according to news reports.
Like authorities, I also have no proof that Suiter’s murder was retribution for his pending testimony. Still, I’m not so naïve as to dismiss the possibility.
So when I am asked, “Why don’t good cops tell on bad cops?” My answer is simple:
“Because there is a price to pay.”
And the price can vary from torment to tragedy.
If citizens really want to urge “good officers” to report police misconduct, they must help create safe zones for officers who report wrongdoing, protect “good cops” from rogue administrators and demand real whistle-blower protections that extend beyond the academic.
And police executives can help stem tides of injustice by wielding their considerable power and virtual autonomy to win some victory for the humanity of their officers – as well as for the citizens they’re sworn to protect and serve.
Cheryl Dorsey is the author of autobiography “Black and Blue, The Creation of A Manifesto.” Her column runs the second Thursday of each month in The Wave. For more information, visit www.sgtcheryldorsey.com and follow her on Twitter @sgtcheryldorsey.